Here is the unusual issue that my son’s team faced today:
The pitcher would stand on the rubber and our batter would enter the batter’s box while the catcher would stand (NOT squat). He was facing the coach, not the pitcher — thereby indicating, by his actions, that he was not ready to receive the ball.
After the coach saw where our batter stood in the box, the coach would then give the catcher instructions where to set up, which was usually on the outside part of the plate. He gave the catcher this instruction since none of our boys stand close to the plate. In the infrequent instances where they were close to the plate, the coach would instruct the catcher to set-up inside. This occurred for every batter and every pitch. Our boys waited in the box in a hitter’s stance until the catcher got the signal and then he squatted behind the plate. Then our boys would wait a little longer for the pitcher to finally throw the ball. The end result was that we were somewhat frozen at the plate and we repeatedly lunged at the ball as it crossed the outside part of the plate. When we didn’t swing, the pitch was often called a strike. Evidence of their effective pitching strategy was the frequent balls hit to the right side of the infield and outfield.
I think that it is permissible for the catcher to stand, since pitch-outs are permitted. But in this instance, the catcher never intended to receive the ball while standing. The umpire said that there is no rule requiring the batter to enter the box until the catcher is ready to receive the ball (and evidence that he is not ready to receive the ball comes from the fact that he doesn’t face the pitcher while in the standing position). The catcher may, however, move around from the squatted position in the catcher’s area once the batter enters the box. This is of course what we see happen in the major leagues all the time.
I have never seen a hitter forced to stand in the box waiting for a standing catcher (who isn’t positioned to receive the ball and isn’t even facing the pitcher) to receive signals from the coach, and then wait longer while the catcher finally turns to the pitcher and then squats and then wait a little longer while pitcher winds-up and throws the ball. Instead, I only see the batter enter the box after the catcher squats and is ready to receive the ball.
This was a pretty clever approach used by the opposing coach, but I wonder if we have to play along with that disruptive strategy? Does a batter have the option of waiting until the catcher is genuinely ready to receive the ball before entering the box? An unpleasant alternative is for the batter to call time and pivot one foot out of the box after the catcher finally sets up. Of course this would lead to a very long game and the umpire would have to ultimately make a decision (or perhaps consult a rule book) about the sequence of events:
(i) does the catcher have to set-up behind the plate in a position ready to receive the ball before the batter is required to enter the batter’s box, or (ii) must the batter enter the box and wait while the catcher stands facing the coach (not the pitcher) to receive signal about where to set-up (with the coach giving signals to the catcher based upon where he sees our batter take a stance in the box).
COACH HENZE’S ANSWER
Thanks for the question Scott!
Wow, this is something I have never heard of as a coach! I guess I am confused a bit… Did the umpire require that the batter enter the box during these situations?
In some leagues and states, rules state that the batter always must keep one foot in the batter’s box, even while taking signs. This rule is meant to speed up the game and works well. I don’t know of any rule that would require the batter to get both feet in the box before the catcher is ready to receive the ball…
I will try to do a little research on this topic. For now, I will leave this question up to our readers. What are your thoughts? Is there a rule like this?
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